NEW DELHI: India on Friday targeted Pakistan for protecting the planners of the 2008 Mumbai attacks and criticised China for blocking the listing of terrorists at the UN, with external affairs minister S Jaishankar saying decades of cross-border terror will not weaken the country’s commitment to fight back.
India’s stance received strong support from US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who said all countries are responsible for bringing the perpetrators of the carnage in Mumbai to justice. He added no nation should stand in the way of joint India-US proposals to designate terrorists at the UN Security Council.
Addressing an informal session of the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, Jaishankar said those behind the Mumbai attacks “remain protected and unpunished”, whereas India captured and convicted one of the 10 attackers.
Blinken, who addressed the gathering via a video message after Jaishankar, said allowing the architects of the Mumbai attacks to go unpunished will send a message to terrorists around the world that their crimes will be tolerated.
Though Jaishankar and Blinken didn’t name any countries in their remarks, there was little doubt they were referring to Pakistan and China.
Following the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan arrested seven Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives, including the group’s operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, but their trial has made little progress. Since June this year, China has blocked five India-US proposals to sanction Pakistan-based terrorist leaders at the UN Security Council.
“In another month, we will be observing the 14th anniversary of these ghastly attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. While one of the terrorists was captured alive, prosecuted and convicted by the highest court in India, the key conspirators and planners of the 26/11 attacks continue to remain protected and unpunished,” Jaishankar said.
“When it comes to proscribing some of these terrorists, the Security Council has regrettably been unable to act in some cases because of political considerations. This undermines our collective credibility and our collective interests,” he said.
“We, in India, understand [terrorism’s] cost more than others. But with that experience comes the steeling of national resolve. Decades of cross-border terror has not and will not weaken our commitment to fight back,” he added.
Jaishankar noted that even as the Mumbai attacks were underway, the UN Security Council met on November 28, 2008 and “underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organisers, financiers, and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice and urged all states to cooperate with the Indian authorities”.
“We must rise above our political differences to address this scourge. The battle against terrorism must be fought resolutely at all fronts, all situations and all places,” he added.
Blinken noted six American citizens were among the 166 people killed in the Mumbai attacks and said it is necessary to do more than just mourn the victims.
“We have a responsibility to the victims and to people everywhere to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, including their masterminds. That’s what the US has been working to do, together with India and other partners for the last 14 years because when we allow the architects of these attacks to go unpunished, we send a message to terrorists everywhere that their heinous crimes will be tolerated,” he said.
Many members of the Security Council adopted sanctions against the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks but such efforts are more effective if there is joint action, Blinken said. “Which is why we worked with India to put forward nominations to designate several terrorists through the UN 1267 [Sanctions] Committee. All relevant parties should support these designations. No nation should stand in their way,” he said.
The losses of the Mumbai attacks should be a “reminder to all of us of our unfinished work in holding accountable the perpetrators of its horrors and averting future terrorist attacks”, Blinken said.
India is currently in the final months of a two-year stint as a non-permanent member of the Security Council and it is also the chair of the CTC till December. It is hosting a special meeting of the CTC – only the eighth time such a meet has been held outside the UN headquarters in New York – and the formal session in New Delhi on Saturday will focus on countering the use of new technologies by terrorists.
The informal session in Mumbai began with a video on the Mumbai attacks and testimonies of some survivors, such as Devika Rotawan, who was shot and injured at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Moshe Holtzberg, who was two years old when the terrorists stormed Chabad House and killed members of his family, and Karambir Kang, who was general manager of the Taj Hotel at the time of the attack and lost his wife and two sons. Former air hostess Nidhi Chaphekar, who was seriously injured in a terrorist bombing at Brussels airport in March 2016, also addressed the gathering.
The theme for the informal session was “Countering financing of terrorism in the local and regional context” and Jaishankar described money as the “lifeblood of terrorism”. He made five recommendations to counter terror financing, including sustained efforts at the UN in collaboration with platforms such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and transparent functioning of the Security Council sanctions regime while ensuring that they are not made ineffective for political reasons.
He called for concerted action against terrorists and their sponsors, including dismantling of terror safe havens, sanctuaries, training grounds and financial, ideological and political support structures, and multilateral efforts to break terrorism’s nexus with transnational organised crime.
Jaishankar said terror groups were exploiting the anonymity afforded by emerging technologies such as virtual currencies for fundraising and finances, and the CTC should provide innovative solutions.
Blinken said preventing future attacks requires addressing emerging threats such as the increasing abuse of the internet to finance and plan attacks, store assets and recruit members. The US is working with the private sector to address these vulnerabilities and getting financial technology companies to enforce policies to prevent their illicit use and ensuring online platforms do not host terrorist content and spread hate, he said.
UK foreign secretary James Cleverly told the gathering that three UK nationals were among the victims of the Mumbai attacks, and Britain is determined to honour the UN Security Council’s pledge of 14 years ago to combat all forms of terrorism. “We are here because we know that counter-terrorism cooperation must continue to adapt and to evolve to match the new threats and emerging technologies,” he added.
The session was also addressed by Gabon foreign minister Michael Moussa Adamo, whose country is the current president of the Security Council, Ghana foreign minister Shirley Ayorkar Botchwey, UAE minister of state for international cooperation Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Vladimir Tarabrin, the special representative of the Russian foreign minister for counter-terrorism, France’s special envoy for counter-terrorism Olivier Caron, Ireland ambassador Brendan Ward, Kenya high commissioner Willy Bett, Mexican ambassador Frederico Salas Lotfe, and China’s vice consul general in Mumbai, Wang Yanhua.
Diplomats and senior officials from Brazil, Malta, Mozambique, Ecuador, Japan, Switzerland and UN under secretary general Vladimir Voronkov also spoke, with most of them focusing on the need to counter terror financing.